I first saw Death when I was fifteen. I wasn't afraid.
It helped that it looked, at least as far as semitransparent phantasmal effigies could look, like a boy about my own age. Similar clothes as well. People always relate tales of seeing ghosts in period costume like a ham actor stuck in last year's amateur playhouse performance of Scrooge but Jimmy wasn't. Apart from the whole I-could-see-the-telly-through-him thing he looked like any other kid who went to my school. Jeans half-way down his bum and showing his knickers, trainers with the tongues sticking out, a shirt with a band's name on. Nirvana, actually, which dates him to the noughts, I suppose. Dead twenty years.
He was helping my mam make some Yorkshire Puddings. I know Manchester's in Lancashire and technically we should have had tea cakes with our gravy, but there's no such thing as Lancashire puddings and if they were they'd probably be inedible anyway. More so than Mam's usual efforts, anyway. Jimmy was reaching over from behind her and flicking at the batter as she poured it. It was going everywhere and Mam was getting annoyed.
“What so bleedin' funny, then?” she said, staring at me with her eyebrows furrowed so hard she looked like she was a rapper with a baseball cap. She didn't consider that swearing. She reckoned everybody bled so it wasn't bad to say. 'Course, everybody poos as well but she don't like me saying 'shit.'
“Sorry.” I tried to stifle the giggles but Jimmy had realised I could see him and just made funny faces at me. “There must be a reason it's going everywhere.”
“It's my hands, love.” She put the batter jug down and checked the oven, pulling the shelf with the chicken out half way to tease open the tinfoil. “The tremors are getting worse, I reckon.”
Now I felt mortified. Mam's been having tremors for years but the doctor told her it was nothing to worry about. She just has to take these pills every day. I wanted to tell her about Jimmy but he put his finger in front of his lips and I kept shtum. I wish I hadn't, now, but as Aunty Veska says, hindsight is the best vision you'll never have.
She bent forward to check on the chicken but some of the batter had gone on the floor and before I could say anything she stepped in it. Her foot slid from under her and down she went. It was like watching a video on You Tube where someone falls and they film it in slow motion. There was nothing I could do but shout “Mam!” as her head hit the edge of the cooker, then the shelf with the roasting pan on it, flipping the chicken out in a perfect arc across the kitchen. It hit the wall next to the clock and fell, scattering oil everywhere. Mum dropped like a stone to the floor.
I screamed, and Dad came running but it was already too late for mum. I could tell she was dead because her eyes were open and she had like a glaze over them. Plus, nobody alive can bend their neck all the way around like that.
Jimmy just sat on the counter licking batter from his fingers.